The mastermind behind what prosecutors called a sham charity that cheated at-risk teenagers out of summer wages at stadium venues agreed to pay about $30,000 to the young people while pleading guilty Monday to felony charges.
Whelton Herron, 44, of Brightwaters, admitted to grand larceny, scheme to defraud and conspiracy charges in a Mineola court hearing that followed his August 2015 arrest.
Prosecutors said Herron was president of a nonprofit that recruited students from Nassau Community College and high schools in Freeport, Brentwood and Huntington to work in concessions jobs for $9 an hour. But then Lindenhurst-based Herron Foundation Inc. paid about 100 New York teenagers little or nothing for their work at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, Citi Field and MCU Park, according to prosecutors. The Nassau district attorney’s office said the scam also spread to Chicago, Houston and Nashville.
Prosecutors had alleged the scheme included the theft of more than $100,000 from Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, the stadium-concessions company that paid a percentage of food and beverage sales back to the foundation for the teenagers’ work. The company believed the teens were unpaid volunteers working under a program Aramark sponsors in which workers put in hours of labor in exchange for the company donating money to charities, according to authorities.
Nassau Supervising Judge Christopher Quinn agreed Monday to sentence Herron in the future to six months in jail and five years of probation after he pleaded guilty to every charge against him. He had faced up to 15 years on the top charge.
Prosecutor Diane Peress, chief of the district attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau, said her office wanted upstate prison time for Herron to go along with monetary restitution.
“That is the reason there is no plea offer,” she told Quinn.
Peress also said there was a criminal tax investigation still ongoing that was linked to Herron’s personal taxes and money from Aramark.
District Attorney Madeline Singas said later Monday in a statement that Herron lined his pockets with tens of thousands of dollars that belonged to underprivileged high school students and others and now would be forced to pay what the hardworking victims had “rightfully earned.”
In October, the foundation’s program director, Amadii Owens, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the same case before a judge gave him a one-year conditional discharge. That means he’ll serve no jail time if he stays out of trouble during that period. The 33-year-old Wyandanch man said in court he also was shorted on wages and left his job after just four months when complaints from young workers about not getting paid became “unbearable.”
Marc Gann, an attorney for Herron, also put in a separate guilty plea to felony charges on the foundation’s behalf Monday and said it had been agreed that $100,000 in restitution was due to Aramark. He and another attorney for Herron, Elizabeth Kase, said after court that their client had accepted responsibility for his crimes and was prepared to make restitution to the young victims by his sentencing date.
Herron, who ignored a request for comment, is due back in court in March.